A year ago, at the very beginning of the global pandemic, the word “essential” became, well, essential to defining what we could not do without. Could our economy survive sans grocery clerks, delivery and bus drivers, meat factory laborers, and similarly undervalued workers in pre-Covid times? What couldn’t the more privileged households do without? Internet, Netflix, unbleached flour, and hoards of toilet paper, or so it appeared. As for the less privileged ones, it became painfully clear that what was essential was what had been missing all along: a basic social safety net. In the event, America was somewhat able to string a temporary one together, although this being America, it was loosely done, its mesh too wide, its fabric too thin to actually keep those in need from falling through.
As we pondered themes for our third print issue for this coming fall, “The Essentials” became a choice that felt unavoidable. We hope to offer a space to record what happened, but also a path to move forward, away from the past year, and toward, we want to hope, a reimagining of what these essentials might be, both in the world at large and in our own personal lives. (For guidelines, see here.)
For our online issues, we select prose and poetry with no theme in mind. We choose what we choose based on the originality of the form and language, and on what surprises us in terms of content, what engages and challenges us, whether the subject is timely or not. For this reason, it is always surprising to see, as we ready each piece for publication, how with each issue, some essential theme manages to make its way through the collaborative unconscious of our little Cagibi.
And so here we have, in this issue, across fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, a meditation on God via the Loneliest Creature on Earth, on longing via postcards from the underworld, on uncertainty in the Anthropocene era via (or despite) the globalization of our botanical imagination.
And then there are the “Palimpsests.” Two poems, like many other pieces in this issue, that popped to the surface, lingering in our editorial imagination, impossible to expunge. Like the words first written on animal skins used on the original palimpsests, words that were then chemically erased so as to recycle the vellum, only to reemerge again to the surface as traces, or remains, layered over time, to create a mosaic of texts, a textured record of what has happened, and what happened next.
In his 1845 essay “The Palimpsest,” Thomas de Quincy compares this process to human memory, underscoring its power to preserve over whatever intention it might have to destroy. What remains, through the work of imagining and reimagining—if that isn’t essential, then what is?
Enjoy this Spring Issue, from our imagination, to yours,
- The Mouse Races - by Aefa Mulholland
- Snow Chairs - by Barry Pearce
- Titan Swims Free - by Ben Powell
- Little Boy and the Carp - by Charles Holdefer
- Twelve Postcards from the Underworld - by Megan Kakimoto
- Solo - by Stephen Newton
- Mosaic Law - by Jon Shorr
- A 52-Hertz God - by Lukas Bacho
- When Mountains Move: Field-Journaling the Anthropocene - by Lyn Baldwin
- The Onliest One - by Rebecca Potter
- Follow the Energy: Two Riders on Writing - by Gail Folkins and Lisa Whalen
- In Translation: Five Poems by Amaranta Caballero Prado, trans. Elizabeth Spesia - Paseo de la Presa #69
- Four Poems by Arden Levine - [In Paris:] | [In Philadelphia:] | [In Berlin:] | [In Santa Fe:]
- What I Learned From Bollywood - by Brian Yapko
- In the Cellar - by Charles Grosel
- Two Poems by Clare Chu - Palimpsest // Sticks & Stones
- Country Music - by Mark Jackley
- Ovid in Translation: What Atalanta Does Not Know - Translation by CB Brady
- Palimpsest - by S. Maniaci
- Formaldehyde’s Love Song - by Seth Amos
- When I Fell From the Sky - by Shelly Stewart Cato
“Red Berries” Photograph by Olga Breydo.
ISSN 2643-3273. Copyright © Cagibi Literary LLC.
CAGIBI publishes four digital issues a year. Submissions are open, and editors are reading.